The second weekend of April 2019 will hold a special significance for the Formula 1 followers. It’s the weekend that sees the category celebrate its 1,000th race weekend and will hold it in the sprawling metropolis that is Shanghai. The country’s largest city has a population of over 26 million, virtually equivalent to that of the Australian continent.
There can be no doubt that this is a race that would be on the checklist of all of the drivers that will grid up on Sunday afternoon local time. A look in the history books will show that the winner of the 1,000th F1 GP was….insert name here. Of real potential to see their name against this historic entry is the Ferrari pairing of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. Even with the murmurs of Vettel’s ability to deal with race pressure at the moment, he simply can not be counted out. Plus it really was only Leclerc’s car that stopped him from taking the win in Bahrain. As is the case of recent years, the Mercedes-AMG Silver Arrows are well and truly in the mix to dominate. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have consistent form and then there is Hamilton’s history at this circuit. He’s been the pole sitter here a full six times, including four times in the silver car for 2013/2014/2015/2017.
Should a driver from, say, Red Bull, Renault, or Haas, take pole, they’ll create their own little piece of history and it’s one for the numerologists. The 1000th race would then see the 100th different polesitter.
The next step will be to see if the reliability of the Renaults has been overcome after both failed at Bahrain. Cyril Abiteboul says:“Our overall competitiveness is good enough for our drivers to be racing in the top 10 and closer to the top teams than last year. But we have suffered from reliability issues. Romain Grosjean knows the pain of retirement only too well after his tangle with Lance Stroll in Bahrain. Both Haas drivers have struggled with setup in their cars, with Kevin Magnussen going backwards during the race after qualifying a very creditable sixth. Grosjean says: “It has to be tyre usage related because the car is the same as we had in Melbourne and in pre-season testing, where we were fast and we were fast again in qualifying in Bahrain. We’ve got the downforce and we’ve got the balance, we just need a little bit more cooperation on the tyres. If we can process the information from testing, we should be fine for the race.”
And that’s a valid statement from Grosjean. This 2019 season has seen cars redesigned yet again in an effort to spice up the racing, both technically for the drivers and visually for the fans. Melbourne wasn’t able to showcase that, however Bahrain did hint at how the changes have been working. The Shanghai circuit, then, as holder of the most overtakes in a dry race (128 in 2016) can offer the drivers and team the potential to break that record.
56 laps is the count for the teams to weigh up the tires and pit stop strategies. Distance is 5451 metres per lap, and this equates to a race distance of 305 kilometres. Designed to mimic a Chinese symbol that means “upwards”, the track provides plenty of tight, close-quarter, racing, especially from the start line. Sector 1 has five turns, with 1 and 2 tightening right handers. Sector 2 is a snake like five corner set, with Sector 3 making up the rest of the 16 corners and holding the drivers into a high speed straight before a slow speed pinch leading to the home straight. Free Practice 1 and 2 are at 12:00 and 16:00 local time on April 12, with the third practice and qualifying at 13:00 and 16:00 on Saturday April 13. The race, the 1000th of the Formula 1 category, gets underway at 16:00 local on Sunday, April 14.